By The Hospitable Team
Thanks to the increasing popularity of OTA platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo, travelers can easily book a vacation rental property when they need a place to stay and enjoy the comfort and utilities of a house or apartment. And for property owners, sites like Vrbo and its alternatives offer an excellent opportunity to rent out their vacation home to earn extra income or build a successful STR business.
But this popularity comes with a price, and property owners and guests who use OTAs risk being vulnerable to scams that can take various forms. Can you get scammed on Vrbo? Read on to find out how to spot Vrbo scams and protect yourself from fraudsters.
Can You Get Scammed on Vrbo as a Host?
Unfortunately, vacation rental scams can happen on any online platform, and fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated. So if you are not careful enough, you can fall victim to internet scams even on a secure site like Vrbo that has comprehensive security procedures to keep users safe.
And remember that it’s not only guests who need to be careful. Sometimes, hosts are vulnerable to falling prey to fraudsters who exploit gaps in security on STR listing platforms for illicit financial gain and to steal personal data.
Although Vrbo does limited background checks on guests by verifying their identity, they’re very basic, so Vrbo hosts can’t rely on them for complete protection. The best way to protect yourself from Vrbo scams is to recognize warning signs and red flags to avoid them.
Vrbo Scams: Warning Signs to Look For
Let’s look at the most common warning signs that will help you identify fraudsters before falling victim. Here is what to look out for to protect yourself.
Poor language usage
If you receive a booking inquiry with many grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, strange spacing, and line breaks, it’s one of the first telltale signs that it can be from a scammer. A scammer may send a message to discover how naïve and patient you are.
A request to communicate offsite
A scammer may try to get you to communicate with them off the Vrbo platform. So you should be very cautious whenever they send you an inquiry and give you their email or phone number. To be on the safe side, always keep all conversations with guests on the Vrbo platform.
It also makes sense to automate guest messaging using vacation rental software like Hospitable.com to save time and ensure that your guests always receive the necessary information at the right time.
Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.
A request to pay using unreliable payment methods
If a guest asks if they can pay for a reservation using a certified check, cashier’s check, or an unsecured wire transfer, it’s obviously an attempt to defraud you. These forms of payment are very risky because there is a high chance that the checks are fake or the transfer could reverse.
This scam can be used by a guest who tries to book a short stay 24 hours in advance. This strategy allows a fraudster to stay on your property before your bank realizes that they used a fraudulent payment method, and the scammers leave before funds are reversed.
It’s a pervasive scheme. A classic overpayment scam is when a guest sends more money than stated via check or money order. Before your bank finds out that it was actually a counterfeit or stolen check, the scammer asks you to refund the difference. They may use such a common excuse that their travel agent made a mistake.
The scammers can also pay for reservations using a credit card but will ask for a refund via bank transfer. Of course, scammers use stolen credit card details.
Scammers may pretend to be a trusted figure, for example, a sea captain, doctor, religious figure, military member, etc. They do it to manipulate a Vrbo host into a false sense of security. This tactic is often paired with an overpayment scam.
Planning a surprise trip
A scammer may claim they want to book your home or apartment for someone else. For example, they may say they are booking a surprise getaway for their friend. This way, scammers try to explain why different names are used during payments.
How to Avoid Vrbo Scams
Now that you know what to look out for to avoid Vrbo scams, it’s important to implement safety practices so that you will never become a victim. Here is what you can do to protect yourself.
Screen your guests before you accept bookings. Check their Vrbo profiles and pay attention to all the details. If you see that a traveler’s profile is incomplete and contains bare minimum information, it could be a red flag. They may be trying to hide something, and you can’t consider them trustworthy. You may also ask your guests to provide additional information or check their social media profiles.
You may say that you have too many daily tasks to complete as a host and no extra time for guest screening. But if you opt for vacation rental software like Hospitable.com, you’ll be able to automate all your routines and have more time for other important responsibilities.
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Accept only online payments through the Vrbo platform. It’s the easiest way to ensure that all your payments will come through successfully. Never agree when someone asks you to accept a payment made by a third-party channel.
Never send refunds for an overpayment. Make it clear to all your potential guests that you don’t refund overpayments. Then, scammers are unlikely to try to get you to fall victim to this fraudulent scheme.
And if you notice that a booking inquiry isn’t legitimate, you should mark it as spam. You should also contact Vrbo if you suspect that you’ve got a booking request from a scammer.
While there is always a risk of a scam when you use rental listing sites, Vrbo scams are not the rule. Most potential guests genuinely want a wonderful stay at your property.
And if you use caution when reviewing your booking inquiries and take steps to prevent fraud, you can ensure you are not scammed when renting out your vacation home.
You may also want to check out our blog post, where we talk about common Airbnb scams and how to avoid them.
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